As I’ve spent time and energy researching microwaves, I’ve noticed a common theme: most of the problems that people have ca be solved easily. Most people that have problems with their microwaves can be resolved by keeping the microwave clean, or other technical issues.
In this post, I’ve written 16 tips that you can use to increase your microwaving experience. These tips are going t cover everything from cleaning the microwave to buying a new one. These tips are for anyone that has a microwave, uses a microwave, or has a friend that is clueless about microwaves.
1. Clean Your Microwave Often
You should clean your microwave at least once per week. Following this schedule can reduce potential problems with your microwave,
Cleaning a microwave is easier the more often you do it. If you only clean it once per week, you may have difficulty with dried, caked on food. Also, cleaning your microwave is pretty easy.
To clean your microwave, simply place water and soap in a microwave safe bowl. If your microwave has a smell, you can add a lemon. Microwave the water and lemon solution for a few minutes. The steam generated from the water solution will make wiping away the caked on food easier.
Next, make a second bowl of water and soap add a nonabrasive towel and wipe clean. Before starting the cleaning, remove the turntable and turntable ring. The turntable can washed in a dishwasher. When you’re cleaning the microwave, make sure you clean all six sides, the keypad, and outside of the microwave.
2. Right Size Your Microwave
Microwaves are measured on their oven capacity. The oven capacity is the cubic feet of the inside of the microwave. The cubic feet is measured by multiplying the length, width, and height of the microwave.
The oven capacity for domestic microwaves range from 0.7 – 2.4 cubic feet. In most cases, as the oven capacity increases, so does the available features.
The microwave size you need is based on a few factors. First, how often are you going to use the microwave? If you place on using the microwave 4 or more time per week, then I recommend a larger microwave. However, if you are planning on using the microwave once or twice per week, you may want to purchase a smaller microwave.
Second, what types of foods are you planning on cooking in the microwave? If you are considering cooking entire
Third, what size family do you have? If you have a family of 4 or more, you should consider a microwave that has at least 2.0 cubic feet of oven capacity. However, if your family size if 3 or less, consider a microwave with an oven capacity of 1.4 or less.
Forth, Where is this microwave going to be placed? If you have a lot of countertop
3. Always Use a Plate Cover
A plate cover is a cover that covers your food while it is cooking in the microwave. There are a number of benefits to using a plate cover including reduced cleaning, reduced smells, and faster cooking.
The biggest benefit of using a plate cover is that they greatly reduce the amount of splatter that occurs in the microwave. Instead of cleaning the entire microwave when food splatters, you simply place the plate cover in the dishwasher. If you don’t like the thought of plastic plate covers on your food, use a paper towel.
Another benefit to using plate covers is most of the small is contained to the plate and cover. The plate cover can help reduce the smell of microwaved salmon bouncing around the house.
PRO TIP: purchase multiple plate covers so one is always available.
4. Space Your Food
Another tip for cooking your food is to add space between your food. For example, if you are reheating a plate of ham, mashed potatoes, and cornbread, add a space between each food. This space will allow fast faster, more even cooking.
In addition, your food will cook better and more even if you cook like foods. Instead of cooking the plate mentioned above, cook a plate of just cornbread, ham, and mashed potatoes.
Spacing your food will answer the question “why does it take so long to microwave my food?”
5. Cook For Shorter Periods
The best way to use a microwave is to use shorter periods. Instead of cooking food for 4 minutes straight, cooking for 1.5, 1.5, 30, 30. Cooking shorter allows you to observe your food and prevent your food from being over cooked.
6. There’s an Accessory For That
Recently, I wrote a blog post with my favorite microwave accessories which can be viewed here. What I realized is there is an accessory for every need. If you want crispy, there are bacon crispers. If you need to cook coffee in a microwave, you can find one. Need additional cooking space? There is an accessory that allows you to stack food on top of each other.
My four favorite microwave accessories are:
- Plate cover
- Popcorn popper
- Plate and bowl caddy
- and replacement turntable
Head over to your favorite retailer to see all the available accessories for your microwave oven.
7. You Can Disable the Beep, But Should You?
Most microwaves have the ability to disable the annoying beeping sound that occurs at the end of a cooking cycle. You can review your owners manual, or the product’s website, for directions on how to disable the beeping sound.
The better question is: should you disable the sound? The sound is an audible reminder that your food is ready to eat. How many times have you started a cooking cycle on the microwave, started doing something else, and totally forgot that you were cooking food. Forgetting your food in a microwave will only increase the number of times you cook the same food.
Personally, I think the beeping sound isn’t that big of a deal and stops when you open the microwave.
8. Just Add A Little Water
Another great tip for microwave cooking is to add a little water. Adding water can help prevent foods from drying out while cooking in a microwave. Also, microwaves use water molecules contained in food, so adding water will help with cooking and keep the flavor.
Some newer microwaves include a steam feature, if you are cooking vegetables, use this feature instead of the normal cooking cycle. The steam feature can be used to both cook your food and clean your microwave.
9. Use All Power Levels
Did you know that your microwave can cook food with other settings than full power? On your microwave, you should see a button called “power level.” This button allows you to cook your foods at a lower wattage.
Adjusting the power level can be handy when you are defrosting food, cooking with a recipe that requires a lower wattage, or looking to keep foods warm.
Below is a power level breakdown of a 1000-watt microwave with 10 levels
- 100% – 1000 watts
- 90% – 900 watts
- 80% – 800 watts
- 70% – 700 watts
- 60% – 600 watts
- 50% – 500 watts
- 40% – 400 watts
- 30% – 300 watts
- 20% – 200 watts
- 10% – 100 watts
In most cases, the numbers 1 – 9 correspond with the power level percent.
In addition, here is a suggested guide for using the different power levels:
- High – cooking fish, ground meats, boiling liquids, and bacon
- Medium-high – roasting, backing, and re-heating food
- Medium – slow-cooking
- Low – defrosting, simmering
- Warm – heating bread, soften butter, keeping warm
10. Defrost For The Win
When I was growing up, I remember my mom taking out frozen meat and putting it in a bowl of water before leaving for work. 10 hours later, the meat was thawed and we ate it for dinner. Then, I learned on the defrost option on most microwaves.
Basically, defrosting is the art of thawing your food, or bringing it above freezing. Many newer microwaves have two defrosting options: auto and manual defrost. Auto defrost is simply putting
The second type of defrosting, manual
Using a microwave to defrost is much safer than putting your food in a bowl of water for long periods of time.
11. Adjust The Cooking Time Based on Wattage
Another tip for great microwave cooking is adjusting your cooking time based on wattage. For example, I was making my kids frozen french toast, the directions call for 1 minute and 15 seconds at 700 power. If you don’t know how to change the power level, you can always reduce the amount of time you cook in the microwave.
Using the example above, I am going to cook the french toast for 1 minute instead of the 1 minute 15 seconds. There are a number of websites that will calculate the adjusted time for you. Making this adjustment will prevent your food from being over-cooked and dried out.
Also, you may have to adjust your time the opposite way as well. If the directions call for a 100-watt microwave, and you only have a 700-watt microwave,
12. Always Use Microwave Safe Containers
You should always use microwave-safe cookware when using a microwave. The term microwave safe means that the cookware will not bubble or melt after use. Also, microwave safe cookware will not release harmful toxins into your food and air. Finally, you should always use microwave-safe cookware because it will be safe to touch after the microwave is finished cooking.
To determine if cookware is microwave-safe, follow the below test:
- Fill a container with water
- Place the cookware in the microwave next to the water
- Microwave both the cookware and water together at full power for 1 minute
I If the cookware is cold and the water hot, then the dish is safe for microwave use. However, if the cookware is hot warm to the touch, it is not safe for cooking.
13. Don’t Use Metals
One of the biggest debates of the internet is whether you can use aluminum in the microwave. In fact, made a blog post where I answer that very question. To be 100% safe, you should not use metals in a microwave, including aluminum foil.
The reason I think you should not use metals is that there are just too many caveats. Also, using metals in a microwave don’t provide a great tangible benefit that can’t be replicated with other types of cookware.
If you use metal in a microwave, be aware that you may see arcs (sparks), smoke, and fire. This doesn’t occur with other types of cookware. So, to me, it isn’t worth it.
14. Never Empty
The worst thing you can do to your microwave is to use it while empty. Cooking with an empty microwave will damage your magnetron. In addition, running an empty microwave could result is smoke or fire.
The question I have is why would you ever need to run your microwave with nothing in it? What benefits does it provide?
15. If Your Microwave Breaks, Check the Junk Yard
Another tip to help you save money is to use your local junkyard or recycling center to find replacement parts. Usually, these places have gone through old electronics (microwaves included) and salvaged what they could. You can find replacement parts at a fraction of the price as you would going through the manufacturer.
Before heading to the junkyard, call or check their website to view their inventory. Also, check the part number before making any purchases. Not all parts fit all microwaves. In addition, microwaves within the same brand can use different parts.
If you are unable to find what you need at the local junkyard, look on sites like Amazon or eBay. I was surprised to find a lot of different parts available online.
16. Stir and Rotate
In addition to the other cook tips above, I recommend cooking for shorter periods of time and stirring your food. Before putting your food back into your microwave, rotate the pate 90 degrees. Stirring your food will help ensure that all parts of your food are cooked evenly. Also, stirring will help prevent parts of your food from being overcooked.
Rotating your plate is also important to microwave cooking because it will help ensure even cooking. Although the turntable rotates, it still might be possible for uneven cooking to occur. Rotating your plate will reduce that concern.
In summary you should do the following for even cooking:
- Shorten your cooking time
- Stir frequently
- Rotate (turn) your plate 90 degrees every time.
17. Most Important Factors of a Microwave: Watts, Oven Capacity, and location
When deciding on a microwave, the most important features are watts, oven, capacity, and location. All other features are secondary. Below are the reasons why I think wattage, oven capacity, and location are the three most important features.
Watts are important because they have a direct impact on the foods you can cook, and the length of time it takes your food to cook. Microwave wattage ranges from 700 – 1800 watts. In general, the higher the watts, the better.
I use a simple formula to calculate the best microwave for the price. This formula, called price per watts, calculates the price you are paying for each watt included in the microwave. This formula (price / watts) strips away all of the features included with the microwave. The closer to $0.00, the more valuable the microwave is. Conversely, the closer to $1 the price per watt is, the less valuable the microwave is.
In addition to watts, oven capacity is the next important feature when buying a new microwave. Also, there is a strong correlation between the number of watts a microwave has and the oven capacity. The larger the oven capacity, the higher the watts.
The location is where the microwave will be placed/ installed. There are three places a microwave can be installed: countertop, over-the-range, built-in. Countertop microwaves will be the least expensive, while built-in microwaves will be the most expensive.
18. Microwaves “Only” Last for 9.5 Years
I was surprised to learn that the average microwave only lasts 9.5 years. That means, if you live in a home for 30 years, you will buy four new microwaves. Consider this fact when you are thinking about fixing your current microwave or buying a new one.
19. Least Important feature is…
In my opinion, the lest important feature in a microwave is the stainless steel finish. While stainless steel looks great, it also adds at least 5% to microwaves that have a plastic finish. In addition, stainless steel is difficult to keep clean and looks bad with fingerprints.
20. Don’t Forget the Microwave Type
Another fact I didn’t know before starting my research is that there are three types of microwaves: Solo, Grill, Convection. These three types have an impact on what you can cook in your microwave, microwave-size, and price. Consider your cooking needs before buying any type of microwave.
These are my 20 best microwave oven tips. What do you think? Are there any tips that I missed? Which of these tips have you used or are currently using?